What started as a good one-off idea – let’s visit the old noviciate in Emo – has become an annual fixture, thanks to John Adams’ logistical skills and Conor Harper’s affection for the place and its late owner, Cholmeley Harrison (who, like the Jesuits, spent just over 39 years there). On 4 November a dozen staff from the Office of Public Works opened the house to a score of Jesuits and some friends of Cholmeley. The highlight was Mass in the Rotunda on the spot where generations of Jesuits had made their first Profession; a robust rendering of Take and Receive and Salve Regina stirred emotional memories. Cholmeley had expressed a desire for Mass to be said for him there: this is the third such celebration. It was followed by exploration: Read more.
The party paced the house and bussed round the grounds to see how the years, and the National Trust, have changed things. They were surrounded by the vivid colours of autumnal trees, especially in the Cloghar, where novices used to practice voice production. Why Cloghar? Cholmeley used to call it the Clucker, because the chatter of the staff who gathered there was like the clucking of poultry. The Irish name could suggest convent; one theory, prompted by the number of oak trees, is that St Brigid had a community here, and indeed Cholmeley uncovered some very old foundations near the house. Swans are back on the lake, perch, roach and bream are being reintroduced, and the pervasive water-weed is being tackled. There is no trace of the old jetty, boat house, Ram House or balustrade. They are restoring the walled garden – some pedigree apple trees are still fruiting there. Through Cholmeley’s gift, the gold-plated silver doors from the old Emo tabernacle have been re-hung in the Domestic Chapel of Clongowes. When the party returned to the house, it was to a wine-and-cheese reception by the OPW staff. Anyone interested in joining next year’s outing should contact Conor Harper or John Adams in Milltown.